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Home Cookin’: Hawkeyes Begin Winter Break with Western Carolina

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Luka Garza and Tyler Cook should have a field day against the overmatched Catamounts

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Northern Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Hello again. The #21/23 Iowa Hawkeyes (8-2, 0-2) return to the hardwood for a basketball game against the Western Carolina Catamounts (3-9, 0-1).

“What is a catamount?” you might ask. A catamount is the recently extinct eastern cougar most often found in the northeast but also as far south as Tennessee. Tennessee borders North Carolina to its west, so I will accept this nickname as quite good.

The Western Carolina basketball program is coached by first-year head coach Mark Prosser, previously an assistant coach at Winthrop and son of the dearly departed Skip Prosser. They have topped out in KenPom at 155 in 2010 ($) and are 310th as of this writing with only wins over Hiwassee, Jacksonville, and UNC Asheville.

A quick trip to said KenPom page is not a pretty one, where they are among the worst in the country at: turning the ball over (often by steal), blocking shots, getting shots blocked, and hitting free throws. The also allow 57.5% from two, which is not good. All of this makes sense with the fact that their tallest guys who will see playing time are Marc Gosselin and Carlos Dotson at 6’7”.

Dotson has the highest usage rate on the team and averages 13.3 points and 9.0 rebounds a game. He’s pretty effective around the rim as he draws 6.8 fouls per 40 minutes (more than Tyler Cook!) and shoots 60% but turns it over more than 25% of the time a possession ends with him. He also possesses a Happian free throw percentage at 45.5% this season.

Kameron Gibson and Matt Halvorsen will start in the backcourt as both average a little over 12 points a game. Gibson, a freshman, is particularly good from deep, as he’s shooting 43.1% from range. If something weird is going to happen later tonight, it’s Gibson who could be the reason for it.

Marc Gosselin plays alongside Dotson in the post and is from France. He rebounds the ball pretty well and can put the ball in the basket – he’s shooting 63.3% from two. He will try to stretch it but has made just three of 18 three-point attempts.

On to points about Iowa!

Energy

Iowa has played with a pretty impressive desperation the last couple of games as they put away both in state rivals by double-digit margins. The bragging rights have subsided so the motivation might wane as the team looks forward to Big Ten action. Carver’s sleepy nature is never a help against these teams either so the Hawks will have to manufacture it themselves.

Thankfully this is a team where energy should make an impact. Their turnover rate is 26.6% and they have five players who have average more than two per game. 16.2% of their shots are blocked. If Iowa is active with their hands, it should yield positive results.

Post Play

Luka Garza bounced back a little bit against UNI but I look for Fran McCaffery to build his gameplan around Garza (and of course Cook). Garza still seems to be working through his recovery from getting a cyst removed and the Catamounts are the perfect foe for him to continue building confidence against. As mentioned above, their block rate is the worst in the country (2.8%) and yield a high percentage from inside. Plus, they foul quite a bit, which would allow Garza to get to the line, where he’s shooting 84.8% from the field.

Tyler Cook will probably have a very cool dunk at sometime.

Frankly there isn’t much else I’ll be looking for outside of whether guys are making their shots or not. Jordan Bohannon seemed to turn a corner but Isaiah Moss and Connor McCaffery had kinda underwhelming games. Building some consistency in the backcourt would be tremendous but I’m not sure it matters tonight.